Hawkeyes look to overcome Spartans’ big numbers

Cassius Winston and Michigan State’s 3-point defense will cause the biggest problems for Iowa as it looks to down Michigan State on the road.


Iowa guard Joe Wieskamp takes the ball to the hoop past Nebraska guard Dachon Burke Jr. during a men’s basketball game between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Nebraska Huskers at Carver-Hawkeye arena on Saturday, February 8, 2020. The Hawkeyes defeated the Huskers 96-72. Wieskamp scored a total of 30 points during the game.

Pete Ruden, Pregame Editor

No. 18 Iowa will have a chance to down what was previously considered the best team in the Big Ten early in the season when it faces No. 24 Michigan State in East Lansing on Tuesday.

The formerly top-ranked Spartans won their first five conference games this season, including a victory over then-No. 12 Michigan. But two games later, Michigan State lost by 29 to Purdue in West Lafayette.

That’s when the Spartans’ descent started. Michigan State holds a 5-5 record since, and it only plays teams that are currently ranked in top-25 in the rest of their games.

1 — Michigan State’s highest ranking

The Spartans entered the season as the No. 1 team in the country with 60 first-place votes. That didn’t last long.

Michigan State fell in its season-opener to No. 2 Kentucky, and the Wildcats took over the top spot a week later.

While the Spartans proved to be one of the best teams in the Big Ten earlier in the season, they fell off the track shortly after.

They started the season 13-3 with two of those defeats came at the hands of top-10 opponents. Then, Michigan State fell in West Lafayette, and things unraveled.

This game also marks the first time Iowa will take on the Spartans as the higher-ranked team. The last time the Hawkeyes were ranked higher, they pulled off a 53-48 victory over an unranked Michigan State squad in the Big Ten Tournament on March 11, 2006.

18.3 — Cassius Winston’s points per game

Spartan guard Cassius Winston has been one of the best players in the Big Ten for multiple seasons, and he has put his ability on display again this season.

Winston ranks third in the conference behind Iowa’s Luka Garza and Minnesota’s Daniel Oturu with 18.3 points per game.

But his impact doesn’t stop there.

RELATED: Supporting cast helps Iowa down Ohio State

Winston also sits at fourth with 5.7 assists per game and ranks second in 3-point shooting percentage, knocking shots down from behind the arc at a 39.6 percent clip.

The last time the Hawkeyes and Spartans matched up, Winston dropped 23 points to go along with seven assists and three 3-pointers.

When the teams met for the first time last season, Winston was held to eight points on 2-of-9 shooting but dished out 12 dimes as his team’s main playmaker.

If Iowa can contain Winston and manage forwards Xavier Tillman and Aaron Henry, the Hawkeyes will find themselves with a solid shot at downing the Spartans on the road.

.287 — Michigan State’s 3-point percentage defense

When Iowa makes its way into the Breslin Center, it will find itself in a real battle on the perimeter.

The Hawkeyes drain shots from 3-point land at a 35.1 percent clip, which ranks second in the conference. Michigan State, however, only allows teams to hit from deep at a 28.7 percent mark.

Iowa may be without CJ Fredrick, as well. Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery said the team is still unsure about the availability of Fredrick, who leads the Hawkeyes with a 3-point percentage of 46.7.

If Fredrick doesn’t play, the Hawkeyes will need to rely on Garza (38 percent) and Joe Wieskamp (36.8) to get their buckets from deep.